Archives For Easter

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Coilhouse Issue #6

Coilhouse Issue #6

  • Excellent alternative culture magazine and blog Coilhouse is shutting down, though the creators are promising that this is a mere hiatus and that Coilhouse will return in some form in the future. Quote: “We can’t tell you what exactly is coming next, or when; we just know we have no intention of quitting. Potential directions that Coilhouse may move in somewhere down the line: books, apps, limited edition print/art objects, video, fashion collaborations. Smaller, more manageable one-shot projects that don’t break our backs. But first, we will have to re-strategize our business and production plans. Nothing is set in stone at the moment because, simply put, we need a break. We need to rest.” For now, they’ve made the six print issues of Coilhouse magazine available as free PDF downloads, a token of affection to fans and supporters. I highly recommend checking them out. 
  • Is the famous Celtic warrior-queen Boudicca buried beneath a McDonalds restaurant? It is rumored to be so. Quote: “Dr Mike Heyworth, the director of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), said that experts are on the hunt for her burial place, at one point rumoured to be near what is now a McDonald’s restaurant in Birmingham, and he wouldn’t be surprised if she was unearthed in the next few years. There are contradictory but persistent tales (with “no element of truth”, according to the Museum of London) that she lies beneath either platform eight, nine or 10 at King’s Cross Station.” The big question is: what happens to her resting place once the bones are found? 
  • No, Easter was not originally the celebration of Ishtar. Let’s all be more critical of Facebook image memes, OK? 
  • At the Huffington Post Grove Harris discusses composting as a Springtime spiritual exercise. Quote: “Composting is in many ways one of the most spiritual of practices. It is the process that will feed the next cycle of life, which will take endings and serve new beginnings. It is powerfully renewing on many levels, and offers deep metaphoric guidance.”
  • Enforced celibacy doesn’t really work all that often, no matter what the religion/ideology is. The country of Bhutan is distributing condoms to Buddhist monasteries to stem the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Quote: “Warning signs of risky behavior among monks first appeared in 2009, when a report on risks and vulnerabilities of adolescents revealed that monks were engaging in “thigh sex” (in which a man uses another man’s clenched thighs for intercourse), according to the state-owned Kuensel daily.” So remember, use protection, make it available, no matter what the official rules are. 
The Joy of Sexus by Vicki León.

The Joy of Sexus by Vicki León.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of them I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Today is Easter/Pasha/Resurrection Sunday, when it is said that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. Rather than give a barrage of “how pagan is Easter” type stories, I thought I’d leave you with a few non-Easter related links to look over today when you’re not busy finding eggs, eating candy, or dressing up like a witch.

Easter Witches in Sweden.

The Ganges in New York: The New York Times reports on how Hindus near Jamaica Bay in Queens, New York have turned the body of water into a local Ganges, a place to leave offerings for a variety of rituals. The problem is that the large number of offerings are disturbing the local habitat and creating an eyesore for park officials.

“We call it the Ganges,” one pilgrim, Madan Padarat, said as he finished his prayers. “She takes away your sickness, your pain, your suffering.” But to the park rangers who patrol the beach, the holy waters are a fragile habitat, the offerings are trash and the littered shores are a federal preserve that must be kept clean for picnickers, fishermen and kayakers. Unlike the Ganges, they say, the enclosed bay does not sweep the refuse away. The result is a standoff between two camps that regard the site as sacrosanct for very different reasons, and have spent years in a quiet tug of war between ancient traditions and modern regulations. Strenuous diplomacy on both sides has helped, but only to a point. “I can’t stop the people and say, ‘You can’t come to the water and make offerings,’ ” said Pandit Chunelall Narine, the priest at a thriving Ozone Park temple, Shri Trimurti Bhavan, who sometimes performs services by the bay. “We are at a dead end right now.”

The article does a good job of capturing the tensions as both sides try to find a workable compromise. I feel that as religions that engage directly with nature grow these tensions will continue. I anticipate that this will not be the last story I read about religious groups and law enforcement confronting how offerings impact a particular area.

A Queer Theology: In his latest Patheos.com column, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus confronts the “queerness” of theology within modern Paganism.

“I mentioned in an earlier article in this column that some modern Pagans have suggested that theology doesn’t really have a place in modern Paganism, and that Paganism as a religion isn’t really appropriate to the concerns of theology.  It was mentioned on that earlier occasion, though, that ancient Pagans in Greece and Rome invented most of the vocabulary of theology—including the term itself. The reservations of some modern Pagans on theology are understandable, and the ways in which Christianity has dominated the discourse on theology for the past several millennia are certainly a concern and something of which any Pagans actively engaged in theological work should be aware. Nonetheless, it is an area that is not only historically relevant to Paganism and polytheism, but one that is quite necessary to confront for modern Pagans.”

As always, Lupus is thoughtful an well-worth reading. Be sure to also check out his wonderful personal blog.

Who Gets Their Religious Freedom Protected: There’s a general election being held in Canada on May 2nd after the conservative government collapsed in a no confidence vote. It is in this context that Canadian Pagan and philosopher Brendan Myers looks at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plan to create an Office of Religious Freedom, and wonders whose freedoms it will work to protect.

“…given the Christian fundamentalism that dwells in the Reform Party’s agenda (pardon me, the Conservative Party’s agenda), therefore you can bet that this office will almost certainly not be used to help voudouisants in Africa, Tibetan Buddhists in China, Jews in Palestine or Muslims in Israel, or for that matter any religion at all which is not Christian. The only exceptions, the only non-Christian religions which this office might support in other countries, would be religious communities that are wealthy and well-organized enough in Canada to pressure the government to help their co-religionists in other countries.”

It seems that conservative Christian outlook in Canada isn’t too dissimilar from their brethren in the United States.

That’s all I have for now, have a happy Sunday, no matter what your activities or beliefs.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Just a few quick news notes for you this Sunday.

Altar of the Twelve Gods Update: Back in February I reported on how Greek Hellenic group Thyrsos Hellenes Ethnikoi has been protesting to preserve the famous Altar of the Twelve Gods, which was uncovered on February 17th during railway construction. Now Tropaion has an update, looking at how different Greek papers are covering the protests.

“The Kathimerini story did not claim that Polytheists were the ‘troublemakers’ in contrast of what To Vima clearly states that “members of polytheistic organizations, which had occupied the site where archaeological reburying work was undergoing for the antiquities.” It is important to note the language used by the newspaper To Vima which is clearly biased. It is also important to underline what Kathimerini notes that the reburying has been called “emerging” –  Central Archaeological Council has approved the reburial of the altar, faithful to the notion that the monuments are better protected hidden – as part of a renovation of the Metro line exactly were the altar exists which is one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of recent years.According to reports, citizens formed a cordon around the monument, which was split violently by the riot police who up to now patrol the site. The work had continued.”

You can read an April 13th update (in Greek) from Thyrsos Hellenes Ethnikoi, here. More on this situation (in English) here, here, here, and here. Petition, here. It looks like things are becoming heavy-handed in Greece, and reburial is moving forward. I’ll update when I have more information.

Vodou Flags, Vodou Culture: Gina Athena Ulysse, Assoc. Prof. of Anthropology, Wesleyan University, writes about Haitian Vodou flag-maker Myrlande Constant, who is part of a current exhibit entitled Re-Framing Haiti: Art, History and Performativity at Brown University.

Erzulie LaFlambeau by Myrlande Constant

“Born in 1970, Constant is a self-taught flagmaker whose artistry is rooted in her skills as a seamstress and the beading techniques that she learned from her mother as a child. While in her teens, both of them had worked in a wedding dress factory. Her foray into the world of flag making coincides with a story of self-emancipation from exploitative factory labor. In a public dialogue in Kreyol that I had with her at Brown last Wednesday, Constant recalls quitting her job at the factory over a compensation dispute. When her mother who still worked at the factory asked her what she would do, she responded, she didn’t know. She then found herself tracing the outline of what would eventually become her first flag, an homage toDanbala that was purchased by singer and bandleader, Richard Morse, also owner of the Hotel Oloffson, where the flag still hangs.”

The exhibition runs through April 21st, and will feature a talk by Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat at its closing. I also wanted to mention that Ulysse linked to a very interesting-looking new book in her article, “The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti” by Kate Ramsey. The work looks at “the long genealogy of anti-Vodou rhetoric” in Haiti, and might be a must-read for those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of struggles Vodou currently faces.

Former Pagan on Easter’s Pagan Influences: Here’s a slightly unique take on the “pagan roots of Easter” story, the Patriot Ledger interviews Kendra Vaughan Hovey, a former reality-television star who converted from Wicca to Christianity, about bunnies, eggs, and Eostre.

“…as they follow those rituals, they will be evoking age-old, pre-Christian practices so familiar that few people give them a second thought. No one knows this better than Kendra Vaughan Hovey of Duxbury, a former Wiccan priestess who is now Christian. She sees reminders of her former religion at every turn this time of year, and she still embraces much of it. “It’s a holiday of new life,” she says of Easter. “There’s a beauty in that.” Hovey notes that even the name Easter has a pagan source – most likely from Ostara, the ancient Norse goddess of spring. Ostara’s festival was always around the spring equinox, which is still used to calculate Easter Sunday dates.”

I have to say, kudos to Lane Lambert at the Patriot Ledger for finding a new angle to this old chestnut of space-filling holiday-themed content. One wonders if this was accidental serendipity due to out-of-date source lists, or if it was planned. In any case, it was novel enough to gain my attention.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

It’s time for the Pagan hysteria watch, where we spotlight some stories and editorials that get a wee bit over-excited in their rhetoric. Let’s start with an obvious source, conservatives defining environmental activism, and agreement with the scientific consensus concerning climate change, as a “new paganism”.

“As many commentators and “global warming skeptics” have observed, climate science has metamorphosed into a religion—or, more accurately, a cult in religious dress. It has its high priests (Al Gore, David Suzuki, James Hansen, Rajendra Pachauri), its sacred texts such as computer models whose inconsistencies and disparities are blithely ignored by the myriads of true believers, its prevailing orthodoxies that cannot safely be questioned or violated…”

Yes, it must be a “religion”, because “more and more evidence is surfacing against global warming claims”, even though the majority of that “evidence” has been overblown and distorted in the media, and the scientific community is being increasingly bullied by activists and politicians for not changing their position on global warming. Maybe they want to prove it’s a religion by producing martyrs? In any case, while times are tough for Al Gore (a “high priest” of the “new paganism”), our current President doesn’t escape accusations that he’s involving us all in paganism!

“For some Americans, Easter is a religious holiday to pay homage to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whom they consider to be the Son of God. But for President Barack Obama, this is a day to worship the environmental pagan goddess of ‘Mother Earth.’ No word yet, on whether the government-sponsored pagan worshippers at the Air Force Academy have been invited to attend ceremonies at the White House Easter Egg Roll ceremonies this year.”

When did the traditional White House Easter celebration become a ceremony for Gaia? Apparently when he decided to use environmentally friendly easter eggs in the ceremony! Gasp! Choke!

“A White House announcement Monday said the eggs at this year’s April 5 roll will be made from paperboard that contains no wood fibers from endangered forests, is recyclable and features vegetable-oil based inks and a water-based coating.”

Not paperboard! Nooooo! It’s like “The Wicker Man”, only not.

Of course “pagan” hysteria isn’t relegated to politics or scientific theories, real-live actual Pagans  also spark it. Just look at this bizarre story in the Queensland (Australia) Southern Star, which brings us the shocking story of two Pagan teenagers getting married … with the consent of their parents!

“A TEENAGER plans to marry a schoolgirl in a pagan ceremony next month with the bride’s mother officiating … Holland Park High School student Jenni, 16, said of the handfasting: “We’ll just see how it goes.” Jenni’s mother and pagan high priestess Sue Birch, of Lawnton, will perform the ceremony.”

Shocking! Wait, why is this a story again? Don’t teenagers get married with the consent of their parents all the time? This is obviously not meeting the desired hysteria quotient, better bring in a rabid anti-Pagan nutter to close out the article.

Pagan marriage is not recognised under Australian law, which stipulates those marrying must be 18 years or older. Christian Democrat Party leader and anti-pagan campaigner Reverend Fred Nile said: “(Handfasting) can’t be in any way acknowledged by the state and should not be listed as a genuine wedding. Our party will do what it can to stop pagan weddings and witchcraft or Wicca activities.’’

There we go, that’s better. We wouldn’t want things to get too reasoned and uncontroversial around here. But even if Wicca becomes utterly useless in drumming up hysteria, we’ll still have Santeria and Vodou to exploit.

“Raised in violent ghetto neighborhoods, Ramirez grew up despising his father for his careless disregard of his family. He learned to live like a street animal to survive the cold, harsh streets of the South Bronx. Looking for love and validation, he eventually found it in a new “family” of witches and warlocks who groomed him to become a high priest in their occult religion. Ramirez’s plunge into the dark side reached a boiling point on the night he sold his soul to the devil in a diabolical, blood-soaked ritual. With renewed fervor–and the mark of the beast now cut into his right arm–he actively recruited souls into this “unholy kingdom,” haunting the bars and clubs of NYC by night to find his next victims, including those who professed faith in Christ. His life continued on this dark path for 25 years until God intervened through a larger-than-life dream, revealing Himself for who He really is and snatching Ramirez back from the pit of hell.  Out of the Devil’s Caldron walks you through the dark alleys of the occult religions of Santeria, Palo Mayombe, and espiritismo (spiritualism) while exposing the hidden secrets of darkness.”

There’s always a new “other” to point the finger at, another form of “paganism” to demonize, wouldn’t want the fear and hysteria to die out would we? If we start having civil discussion about these issues, who knows what could happen? Maybe we’d all become Pagans?

While the actually holiday of Easter has little to do with pre-Christian traditions, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some unique blending of Christianity and different folk customs over the years. Time Magazine shares one of the more charming in their round-up of “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Easter”.

“Many of the things you don’t know about Easter have to do with odd, intensely national Holy Week traditions. So why not start off with the most unexpected one — the Easter Witch. In Sweden and parts of Finland, a mini-Halloween takes place on either the Thursday or Saturday before Easter. Little girls dress up in rags and old clothes, too-big skirts and shawls and go door to door with a copper kettle looking for treats. The tradition is said to come from the old belief that witches would fly to a German mountain the Thursday before Easter to cavort with Satan. On their way back, Swedes would light fires to scare them away, a practice honored today by the bonfires and fireworks across the land in the days leading up to Sunday.”

Easter witches! You can lean more about the tradition here, and here. Between this and Italy’s Christmas witch I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t a European Christian holiday somewhere that doesn’t involve some form of witches and children getting presents.

A few stories of note I wanted to share with you, starting with a development that has already been mentioned by a few heavyweights in the Pagan blogosphere, the destruction of altars to Santa Muerte in Mexico. Collatoral damage of the intensifying drug-war in that country.

“Mexican law enforcement won’t say it is targeting the “Santa Muerte.” But last month, army troops accompanied workers who used back hoes to topple and crush more 30 shrines on a roadway in the city of Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas. Many were elaborate, one-story, marble-clad constructions with electric lighting and statues of the skeletal Death Saint. The sect’s archbishop, David Romo, denounced the destruction as religious persecution and demanded a meeting with President Felipe Calderon … “Sometimes people look down on us because we believe in her, but my faith is bigger than somebody looking down on me,” said America Melendez, a 24-year-old street vendor marching with a red-robed statue of the saint.”

Because Santa Muerte (Saint Death) is extremely popular among those who live in fear of violent death, it is popular both with drug-dealers and the communities plagued by them (though this recent destruction was supported by some local residents and officials). This psychological slash-and-burn tactic against the drug cartels may backfire on the government, making adherents believe the government isn’t interested in protecting their rights or safety.

I don’t know if you heard, but Easter is coming up this Sunday, and there are plenty of “pagan origins of Easter” stories littering the aggregators. But is Easter really “stolen” from the pagans? Christian History looks at the evidence and finds it lacking.

“The first question, therefore, is whether the actual Christian celebration of Easter is derived from a pagan festival. This is easily answered. The Nordic/Germanic peoples (including the Anglo-Saxons) were comparative latecomers to Christianity. Pope Gregory I sent a missionary enterprise led by Augustine of Canterbury to the Anglo-Saxons in 596/7. The forcible conversion of the Saxons in Europe began under Charlemagne in 772. Hence, if “Easter” (i.e. the Christian Passover festival) was celebrated prior to those dates, any supposed pagan Anglo-Saxon festival of “Eostre” can have no significance. And there is, in fact, clear evidence that Christians celebrated an Easter/Passover festival by the second century, if not earlier. It follows that the Christian Easter/Passover celebration, which originated in the Mediterranean basin, was not influenced by any Germanic pagan festival.”

Lest you think author Anthony McRoy is using biased sources, he generously quotes Ronald Hutton’s investigations into the history of Easter, and finds little evidence that Christians were trying to steal Eostre’s thunder. Of course that doesn’t mean that all those eggs and bunnies aren’t “borrowed” from pre-Christian folk traditions, but I think we can rule out wholesale holiday theft in this case.

In a final note, does a sickening crime against a child point to the spread of a growing anti-witch hysteria? A 10-year-old girl reported being beaten and sexually abused by a relative until she confessed to being a “witch”. The suspect, Emmanuel Beavogui, a native of Guinea here on an expired visa, was arrested and the alleged implements of his torture as well as a book on expelling demons was found in his home.

“The girl’s aunt told police that the youngster confided to her that Beavogui was beating her with a stick and accusing her of being a witch. The girl then told police a similar story, saying Beavogui pushed her against walls and recently struck her in the shins with a broomstick, which made her bleed. Police took photos of her injuries. The girl also said Beavogui beats her “until she confesses.” At Midwest Children’s Resource Center, which evaluates alleged child abuse, the girl said Beavogui had often given her baths when his wife was gone. During these baths, he would rub her vagina and scrub it with a plastic mesh — doing it so hard on one occasion that she bled, the girl told a nurse. After getting a search warrant for Beavogui’s home, police found two brooms, a wooden stick, a blue plastic mesh and the book about demons.”

Beavogui seemed cocky concerning his arrest, saying he could beat a “sexual charge” due to being married. He is currently out on bail, and his passport is being held while he awaits trial. The girl is in protective custody. While the abuse of children is always troubling, there seems to be something more here than mere abuse. I’ve noted that some extremist Christian elements lately seem quite comfortable adopting language and practices from the anti-witchcraft/occult hysteria-peddlers in Africa. Mix that with the fear, uncertainty, and doubt spread by the two-bit occult “experts” and concern-trolls and you have a potentially volitile mix that could endanger kids who don’t toe the line. Could the next “Satanic Panic” be focused on the children instead of in alleged defense of them? What happens when some of those quiverfull children don’t want to become culture warriors for their parents? Will they suffer extensive “exorcisms” as some children already have? Or something even worse?

The Easter season is usually a time when the press focuses on Christian-centric stories to capitalize on the most important holiday in the Christian liturgical calendar. But it is also a time for deep introspection on exactly where that darn spring-colored bunny carrying colored eggs came from.

“The legend of the Easter Bunny is far from a modern invention. Long ago, the rabbit was the earthly symbol of the pagan goddess Eastre, and was worshipped in the pagan festival of Eastre … The hare has long been a symbol of fertility and renewal of life – which fit in with the Christian tradition of Easter and the tradition of Easter eggs.”KNBC, Los Angeles

Yes its time for that persistent thorny question…

“Ever wonder what bunnies have to do with the Resurrection?”Rob Jenkins, Gwinnett Daily Post

Some Christian leaders take the bunny in stride, acknowledging that the Christian church has picked up some pagan baggage in its long history.

“Area religious leaders, including campus pastor Kent Kersey at Corban College, admit it’s a bit strange for churches to be using pagan symbols such as eggs and bunnies to deliver the Easter message. “But that’s part of the Evangelical heritage, the whole missionary understanding,” Kersey said, “to adopt cultural norms and share the Gospel through those means.” Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ from the dead.”

Others aren’t so sanguine.

“The cliched traditions that accompany these two Christian events, from eggs to baskets, are merely paganism with a Christian face, seeing as they too have evolved out of non-Christian celebrations of the vernal equinox. At best, they distract us from the true meaning of Christ’s sacrifices in the desert, his death on the Cross and his Resurrection. At worst, they instill a modern form of paganism into an increasingly selfish and consumerist society that appears neither to care for the sacrifices of Christ nor to reflect earnestly and exhaustively on what salvation entails.”

For many it seems that a spring festival is a spring festival, and while some earnest attempts are made to attend church (and call it “Resurrection Day” instead of “Easter”), most families seem content with it being about family, a feast, colored eggs, and a semi-mythical hare.

“It really just depends on how religiously observant you are. Just remember that every time you sow a few seeds or plant a rose bush and make a small wish that they will grow, you are effectively taking part in a pagan celebration devoted to a pagan goddess named Eostre.”Terry Kirby, The Independent

I hope my Christian readers have a pleasant Easter, try not to worry too much about the tiny offerings to Eostre in the process.